A baby changes a marriage, or a couple, for better or for worse. One day, it's just you and your partner, without too many responsibilities, and you both come and go as you please. You stay up half of the night watching your favorite sitcoms. You party with your friends, eat cake for dinner and pizza for breakfast, and have minimal worries. Then, a baby enters your life and you start bickering. Sadly, the trivial things all first-time parents argue about are, for the most part, pretty impossible to avoid. That's just the power of sleep depravation, dear reader.
Babies are overwhelming. They come in like a hurricane, disturbing peace and forcing change. The world you've created as a couple quickly undergoes a paramount adjustment in order to facilitate this new human you've welcomed to the world. Nothing can prepare two people for what a newborn brings, including advice or someone else's experience. New parents are thrown into the battlefield with no training, no arsenal, and no point of reference. It's sink or swim. Fight or flight. It's scary and unpredictable. It's a minefield.
Parenthood is amazing and incredible, but unfortunately, the wonderful parts are very seldom enjoyed in the very beginning. I consider the first few months of parenting a period of hazing, to see if you're really cut out for it all. Of course most of us pass the test, but not without a few battle wounds.
The "I Changed The Last Diaper" Argument
Keeping score within your relationship becomes the norm in the first few months of parenting, usually because there is so much to do and new parents are so overwhelmed. Honestly, quickly turning on one another just seems like the only thing you can do. As soon as the aura of a soiled diaper fills the air, both of the parents scream, "Not it!" Then the score keeping begins.
Me: "I changed, like, 500 diapers today!"
He: "Yeah, but I changed 600 yesterday!"
And so it goes until one of the parents gives in and then holds a grudge until the next soiled diaper.
The "I Need More Sleep Because I Have To Get Up For Work" Argument
Make no mistake, both parents work nonstop for the first few months of a newborn's life. Even if one parent goes back to the office, and one parent stays behind at home, both parents are busting some serious ass. The only difference? One works inside the house and the other works outside of the house. There is really no difference in the amount of sleep one should get. Still, usually one parent (the one who works outside the home) will say, "I have to go to work tomorrow, so you should get up with the baby in the middle of the night."
"Well, that doesn't really fly because it's not like I get to nap during the day. I am just as exhausted as you are. I shouldn't stay up half of the night taking care of a crying, hungry, wet newborn," I say.
My husband and I basically compromised. He'd wake up and change the baby, bring the baby to me, and go back to sleep. I'd nurse the baby and put him back to sleep. We basically took turns. It worked for us.
The "I'm Way More Tired Than You Are" Argument
"Today I woke up at 6 a.m., changed the baby, dressed the baby, fed the baby, pumped, cleaned, put the baby down for a nap, did three loads of laundry, changed the baby, fed the baby, pumped, walked around with the baby as he cried, changed the baby, fed the baby, put the baby down for a nap, pumped, cooked dinner, cleaned, changed the baby, fed the baby, pumped, changed the baby, and played with the baby. Plus, I did it all on four hours of sleep. I'm exhausted and I want to die."
"Today I attended two meetings, worked on four contracts, and managed five projects. And I did it all on four hours of sleep. I'm exhausted and I want to die."
You're both tired. It's why you're fighting.
The "I'm Way More Stressed Out" Argument
Honestly, no one wins here. Babies are stressful. You're constantly trying to figure what they want, why they are crying, how to feed them, and how to calm them. Still, winning the "I'm so stressed out" argument is almost like a badge of honor. As if being stressed out is a good thing. (Hint: it's not.)
The "You're Doing It Wrong" Argument
I'm a special breed of neurotic and I like to do things my way. My way is obviously the right way, and my husband obviously does not know what he is doing. Except that he does. He really does know. In fact, he and I have exactly the same level of experience when it comes to taking care of a baby. Still, I can't help myself, and I end up correcting him even though it's completely unnecessary.
Me: "Don't hold the baby that way."
He: "I know how to hold the baby."
Me: "Be careful with the bottle."
He: "I've fed her before."
Me: "You're doing it wrong."
He: "Why are you so condescending. I'm not an idiot."
And so it begins...
The "We Can't Afford This" Argument
Babies are so expensive. Like, really, really expensive. Diapers alone can break the bank, but then you add formula, clothes, bottles, wipes, gear, bedding, toys, and you may as well say goodbye to any disposable income. What is disposable income, anyway?
While most couples fight about money, that fight becomes much more serious and way more frequent when babies are involved.
The "I Can't Do It All" Argument
"I do everything around here!" is usually how that argument begins. I truly believed I did everything for our family and all my husband did was go to work. He got to leave while I had to stay and do it all. Taking care of a newborn, especially one who is colicky and refuses to nurse, is more difficult than anything I could imagine. So, I viewed my husband's office job as a vacation I wished I could take.
So, when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed and defeated, I felt like I was doing it all alone. The reality, of course, was that both of us were "doing it all," reality just didn't really make it into the argument.
The "You're Breathing Too Loudly" Argument
Sometimes absolutely nothing sets one of you off. The exhaustion, the lack of sleep, the stress, and every other change your newborn brings just weighs on your relationship. There are moments when you wonder why you are even together. They are times when all you want to do is to punch your spouse in the throat and call it a day. There are times when you consider running away. There are moments of complete anger and hatred.
However, those moments, usually, dissipate rather quickly. Once all of the irritation dissolves and you have a few minutes of peace, you look at each other and realize you couldn't think of doing any of this with anyone else. Then everything is alright, and just as it should be.